Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Top 3 most underrated and overlooked denpa albums of 2011

So many great albums were released in 2011, but not all of them seemed to capture the attention they deserve. Although one would think that releasing outside of Comiket is a great way to avoid the massive overflow of new albums, it's not always that simple. Case in point, these three following albums are pure denpa crack but somehow they ended up flying under most people's radar. If you missed out on these, it's not too late as we have international purchase links for two of them, and the third can be obtained easily enough at upcoming doujin events.

Released on February 2nd 2011, 『ぱらのいあ☆らヴ』 is the fantastic debut mini-album from 白石なごむ (SHIRAISHI Nagomu). Its greatness comes from various factors that were explored in our original article, but a couple constituents bear a deeper significance. First of all, 白石なごむ clearly demonstrates a strong expertise of her vocal folds, exploring multiple ranges and tempos. This is evident in 「人畜N系パラノイド」 where she hits multiple high notes with ease and delivers charming vibrato effortlessly. At the same time, she knows exactly what her fans desire and understands precisely what denpa-moe songs are made of. She's more than happy to play along and perform silly nekoneko role-playing for our enjoyment.

Complementary to her strong vocal performance, we have good guy きくお entirely composing the album. The pair is a match made in heaven, thanks to his dynamic themes dictating direction and meticulous craftsmanship enhancing her voice. Although only having been a full-time musician for about 5 years now, きくお has developed a rather unique style which focuses on high-tension percussion (borderline drum'n'bass in some instances), providing the backdrop to charmingly retro soundscapes jam-packed with quirky and catchy melodies.

As it stands (and despite this article title), 『ぱらのいあ☆らヴ』 is not exclusively a denpa album. きくお does compose a large number of denpa songs and frequently appears on moe compilations such as the プチリズム series. 白石なごむ herself is a major 桃井はるこ fan and even sent us a tweet one day to tell us she loves denpa songs and hoped to sing many in the future! It's safe to say that this album is a sure-fire get for any denpa fan looking for something a bit more on the idol-kei side, with a hefty dose of goofiness. [order on CDJapan now]

Satsuki, where are you?

さつき が てんこもり (Satsuki ga Tenkomori) needs absolutely no introduction on this website. Not only has he created many memorable denpa songs, he has even provided us with a mini-interview and frequently namedrops 電波の世界 to his 13,000 twitter followers. Although the doujin realm remains his main playground, he has dabbled with major scene activities, reaching new heights in September 2011 with the release of his first full-length album 『ニコ生モラルハザード』.

Despite being released on such a high-profile label as dmARTS, all of Satsuki's creations retain the zaniness and jocularity that made him a household name in the first place. No punches were pulled with the lyrics and overall themes, in fact strong performances from Hamar, ゆづか姫 and みかりん* inject a far greater sense of personality than originally anticipated. Whether or not ななひら and/or kana should have been included in some capacity is a legitimate question, but at least かめりあ and y0c1e have cameos!

Bottomline is that this is a Satsuki album and that fact alone warrants a permanent place in your collection. The six new songs are delicious and tailor-made for their respective vocalists. Just like きくお beforehand, Satsuki has crafted a distinct sonority with deep groovy bass supporting high-strung harmonies, the perfect vehicle for humorous libretto performed by lovely damsels. [order on CDJapan now]

In mid-October 2011, PARANOIA PARADOX released a surprise 100% denpa album based on ZUN's eternal creation. Now, while touhou denpa albums aren't exactly rare, they were actually few and far between in 2011. As we previously reported, there were a number of factors which also helped set 『ぱらのいあぱらどくちゅ』 apart. Behind the scene is composer and circle owner いたちま who provided 7 hyperactive and openly denpa arranges. His work here is upbeat and catchy, laced with powerful arpeggios and frequent Famison-like pulses. However, the album still has overtones of his main trance/electro techniques, which makes for a fair bit of crossover appeal.

Vocalists-wise, various performers are involved and each of them deliver flawless performances in their own capacity. Obviously the big story is that this compilation has the first Touhou arrange performance from the eclectic メトロポリちゃんV. As expected of her personality, her voice is resplendent and endearing, so let's hope for a lot more appearances in the future. The other vocalists are just as captivating, including 桜ふみ, 愛空アキハ, 佳織みちる, かごめP and 田川まゆみ. Even いたちま provides some rather unique vocals at some point!

It all comes together splendidly, yet 『ぱらのいあぱらどくちゅ』 did not seem to achieve comparable levels of hype within the (admittedly small) denpa community. Fans of Holic Service, Birdtune and denpa-oriented IOSYS songs definitely need to snap this up. It also comes with a full-color 16 page illustration book from 雪月佳. In the end it was a really considerate and surprising move from PARANOIA PARADOX to take this crazy denpa thing seriously and release a full album, not just a single throwaway song on one of their many "serious" albums.

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